Need-Blindness in Admissions

Need Blind in Admissions, Admissions and Need Blind, Need Blind in College Admissions

“The Washington Post” features an editorial by the president of Williams College on the issue of need-blindness in admissions.

There’s a piece in “The Washington Post” entitled “Viewpoint: Why ‘need-blind’ is the wrong goal for college admissions” that we figured we’d share with our readers. The article features an editorial by the president of Williams College, Adam F. Falk. Ever notice college administrators and professors so often use their middle initials? Or sometimes they’re First Initial Middle Name. Kind of like F. Scott Fitzgerald. Anyhow, this is absolutely besides the point. The editorial by Adam Falk is a very well articulated one, one that fairly (though not completely) accurately describes need-blind admissions and why it’s not the panacea some folks seem to think it is.

For years, we have informed our readers that need-blind admissions is a fallacy and we’ve detailed precisely why. While most of Adam Falk’s editorial is correct, there are a couple things we’d like to clear up for our readers. No college — not Williams, not Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Cornell, Penn, Brown, Columbia, or any school west of the Atlantic Ocean and east of the Pacific is need-blind. That should cover every school in America, based on our knowledge of geography. Think about it. It asks on the Common Application if a student needs financial aid. Admissions officers can see that with their own two eyes. That can absolutely impact the read of an application — and the decision that is rendered. Also, if a college were to admit a class in which everyone needed financial aid, they’d be in fiscal peril. Colleges — all of them — rely on tuition dollars. Need-blind admissions is a total, absolute, 100% farce. Rather, these colleges that claim to be need-blind are actually need-aware.

But many of the other points that Adam Falk raises are not only valid but it’s quite commendable that he’s being so forthright. As Falk writes, “‘Need-blindness,’ taken literally, is actually a narrow and misleading construct. There’s a passiveness to the term that implies, quite wrongly, that we can address the issue of college accessibility simply by turning a blind eye to students’ financial circumstances. Rather, what’s needed is for colleges to act affirmatively to bring socioeconomic diversity to our campuses. Just as being ‘color-blind’ won’t eliminate racism in our society, being narrowly ‘need-blind’ isn’t nearly enough to ensure college access and affordability.”

Need-blindness absolutely is misleading, for the reasons articulated by Adam Falk and also for the reasons we’ve been citing for years. May the word get out.


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